So, it’s now time to review the Ultimate Universe’s take on the member of Spider-Man’s rogue’s gallery I hate the most. I’m going to say this right now. I hate Carnage. The character is completely unoriginal. He was created to be a darker-and-edgier version of Venom, who was in turn meant to be a darker and edgier version of Spider-Man. The character has essentially no depth. He kills people for no reason. That’s it. He breaks out of where he’s held, kills people until he’s stopped, and wash, rinse, repeat.
Thus, when I picked up this volume, I had my doubts about how they could make this story interesting. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised by how they did succeed. Basically, they managed to pull it off by not directly attaching the character to Venom, but instead to Curt Connors, aka The Lizard. Connors has been, in my opinion, one of the better members of Spider-Man’s supporting cast. This is, for a large part, because he’s a tragic figure. He experiments on himself in an attempt to develop a way for amputees to re-grow limbs, and ends up turning himself into a lizard-man. Everything the character does is meant with the best intentions, as opposed to villainous figures like Doc Ock and the Green Goblin.
Thus, instead of this character being born directly from of the Venom symbiont, it’s born out of experiments done by Dr. Connors with Peter Parker’s blood sample, as well as the experiments that created Venom. On the one hand, we still have the connection with Venom, which I’m not too fond of. On the other hand, the darker-and-edgier aspect isn’t there. So, finally, we get an interesting origin for Carnage.
However, once Carnage is introduced, they really don’t go anywhere interesting with it. While Carnage was “attached” with a real human psychopath would try to give Hannibal Lectures while trying to kill Spidey, this Carnage is nothing more than a literal monster. The character’s sole motivation is to feed. Frankly, the storyline would be entirely forgettable except it puts Curt Connors behind bars, and far more importantly, it kills off Gwen Stacy.
I’ll say that again – they kill off Gwen Stacy.
Yes, Gwen’s been dead in the main Marvel universe for years, but they built up to her death. We had that famous confrontation on the George Washington Bridge with the Green Goblin holding Gwen’s life in the balance. We were hit in the gut, but we didn’t feel robbed. Here, Gwen’s death is sort of like Tasha Yar’s death on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Gwen is killed out of the blue by Carnage. He’s outside of the Parker house, Gwen sees him, Carnage kills her and leaves. That’s it, the end.
While the response to Gwen’s death is significant, and her death does have impact on the plot of the story, the way they, if you’ll forgive an expression, execute her death doesn’t work for me. It feels like Bendis went “we really need to kill Gwen Stacy, let’s just get it over with”, and wrote in her death by Carnage. Yes, it had impact, but it didn’t work for me. It could have been handled better and, for that matter, considering that the Ultimate Universe was meant to be a different version of the core universe, with various things being different. including the state of Gwen Stacy, leaving Gwen alive really helped make a big difference between the two.
All that said, this storyline feels like a bridge between two big storylines. We had Ultimate Six and some of the side effects of that in Hollywood, and now this collection feels like it’s setting up stuff for later (including some references to the Clone Genesis storyline which I’m certain will pay off later). It’s worth reading of only to find out why Gwen Stacy isn’t in later issues, but that’s the only real reason in my eyes to read it.